A brief article in the August issue of Psychology Today looks at the current state of affairs of personality tests.
The inconsistency of some of their standards has given rise to doubting the value of results. Indeed, popular ‘Temperament Sorter’ and ‘Type Indicator’ programs include undesirable features such as “ambiguous language and false dichotomies”.
For example, one question asks the test taker if it feels better to have one’s head in the clouds or to feel like one’s in a rut? Such questions are likely to trigger uncertainty in how to respond, especially given the alternative meta-meanings of each; although in this particular case, the answer might be affected by whether one is looking up or looking down when considering it.
Many participants do feel that legitimate probing can be valuable; moreover, rating questions as having higher difficulty tends to connect them “with greater perceptions of depth”.
However, challenging does not equate with enlightening: a ‘type indicator’ can result in different personality categories each time such a test is taken.
Assessments which focus on major traits are likely to reveal that aspects such as agreeableness or extraversion come in degrees, not packable absolutes. It’s the consistency of scores when participants retest which conveys more meaningful revelations.
Given some of the volatility in current societal relationships and expectations, there are no doubt many other paradoxical comparisons one could construct to generate insight…
- Which is worse, driving on the wrong side of the road or yelling out one’s window in the middle of traffic?
- Are politicians who lie as expected better than those who lie unexpectedly?
- Is corruption involving safety worse than corruption involving the pubic purse?
- Is refusing to help a long-time neighbour worse than refusing to give to charity?
- Is it better to lead by example or follow with fortitude?
- Which is worse, a broken fingernail or a broken toenail?
- Is it easier to handle raining on your parade or dealing with a flat tire?
- Is a salesperson who omits information to help close a deal worse than a developer who derails information which would stop a deal?
- Is it better to come to aid a stranger in an emergency or to babysit for an in-law in distress?
- Is it better to confront a bully at a beach or at a playground?
- Should one feel right to leave no tip, or is it better to ask for additional free helpings?
- Are there smarter rules for recycling or for obtaining a driver’s license?